To make room for Houshmandzadeh on the roster, the Ravens traded wide receiver Mark Clayton to the St. Louis Rams for an undisclosed draft pick. Clayton, drafted 22nd overall by Baltimore in the 2005 draft, ranks third in Ravens history with 234 career catches and 3,116 yards.
Houshmandzaheh, a 10-year veteran, was cut by Seattle last week. He signed with the Seahawks as a free agent before the 2009 season and had a team-high 79 catches for 911 yards and three touchdowns.
So, too, is Houshmandzadeh, who was in the second year of a five-year, $40 million contract.
“The first things that pop out at you about T.J. are that he has been very productive and durable in his first nine years in the NFL,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “Plus, we saw him more than we wanted making a lot of plays against us. We had interest in him a year ago when he first became a free agent before he signed with Seattle.”
In previously bolstering the wide receiver position, the Ravens traded with Arizona for Anquan Boldin in the offseason and signed free agent Donte’ Stallworth. But Stallworth broke his left foot in the third exhibition game.
Baltimore also has veteran Derrick Mason. The 36-year-old Mason, entering his 14th pro season, has been the Ravens‘ most consistent receiver for years. In 2009, he was second to running back Ray Rice on the team with 73 catches and led the Ravens with 1,028 yards. He caught seven touchdown passes.
Kennard McGuire, Houshmandzadeh’s agent, said the receiver “is excited about playing for such an amazing organization.”
“He’s another proven weapon for our offense _ a big receiver with good hands and toughness,” Newsome said. “The one other thing that every coach and player we talked with about him indicated is that T.J. is a driven player with an excellent work ethic.”
Houshmandzadeh, who will be 33 on Sept. 26, spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, for whom he twice exceeded 1,000 yards in a season (2005 and 2006), and three times had at least 90 receptions. His 112 catches in 2007 tied for the league lead with Wes Welker of New England.
Even with his release by Seattle, Houshmandzadeh was guaranteed $7 million for the 2010 season.
Clayton leaves with a franchise-record nine 100-yard receiving games. He joins a team shy of veterans at wide receiver, plus the Rams lost Donnie Avery for the season with a knee injury in the preseason.
“You never reach a point when it’s easy to release or trade a player you respect. Everyone here has the highest regard for Mark,” Newsome said. “He’ll help the Rams, and it’s good for him that they reached out to get him.”
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